4. Glacial Erosion

Erosion by Ice

Ice can erode the land. In frigid areas and on some mountaintops, glaciers move slowly downhill and across the land. As they move, they pick up everything in their path, from tiny grains of sand to huge boulders.

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The rocks carried by a glacier rub against the ground below, eroding both the ground and the rocks. Glaciers grind up rocks and scrape away the soil. Moving glaciers gouge out basins and form steep-sided mountain valleys.

Several times in Earth’s history, vast glaciers covered parts of the Northern Hemisphere. These glacial periods are known as ice ages. Glaciers carved much of the northern North American and European landscape. They scoured the ground to form the bottom of what are now the Finger Lakes in the U.S. state of New York. They also carved fjords, deep inlets along the coast of Scandinavia.Screenshot 2014-05-06 13.32.01

Today, in places such as Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers continue to erode the earth. These ice sheets, sometimes more than a mile thick, carry rocks and other debris downhill toward the sea. Eroded sediment is often visible on and around glaciers. This material is called moraine.

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How does ice shape the land?

The work of ice